One year on, we look back on our response to the war against Ukraine.
In February 2022, the world watched on in horror as Russia launched a full-scale war of aggression against the people of Ukraine. Since the fighting began, thousands of lives have been lost and millions of people have been uprooted from their homes.
When the Homes For Ukraine scheme launched in March 2022, thousands of people across Scotland signed up to host Ukrainian refugees. The Scottish Government became a ‘super sponsor’ enabling people fleeing the war to secure visas without having to arrange a private sponsor first.
In the last 12 months, nearly 23,000 people fleeing the war against Ukraine have arrived in Scotland in search of safety.
We have helped shape Scotland’s emergency response and expanded our services to offer information, advice and support to even more people at this crucial moment. Here are some of the ways we’re helping.
Standing up for the rights of seasonal workers
When the war broke out, seasonal workers from Ukraine who were in the UK on temporary visas were left in limbo. Unable to return to their war-torn homes, traumatised people were faced with the possibility of remaining in the UK with nowhere to live and no way of earning a living once their visas expired.
We successfully campaigned for the Home Office to give seasonal workers from Ukraine the right to live and work in the UK for up to three years.
Welcoming new arrivals
We’ve recruited a team of dedicated volunteers to help us meet and greet Ukrainians arriving at Glasgow airport.
With their support, we’ve welcomed more than 1,200 men, women and children since March 2022. Our volunteers offer a friendly face for people who often arrive exhausted and traumatised. They provide essential information and accompanying new arrivals to the nearby hub run by Renfrewshire Council Resettlement Team.
Tetiana came to Scotland in July and was soon volunteering to greet other Ukrainians when they arrived.
She said: “The best thing is feeling that you are useful and can help somebody. I know how it feels when you come to a strange country for the first time. You don’t know what tomorrow will be or where you will stay. It’s really scary.
“When I arrived, I was so scared. I had read about what to do but I didn’t know how it would be. It’s really great when there’s someone you can ask. Even more when they can speak to you in your own language.”
Since the war began, 29% of calls to our national helpline have been about the situation in Ukraine. Between March and December 2022, our helpline advisers answered close to 3,000 calls and emails relating to Ukraine.
We’re responding to queries from people fleeing Ukraine, people who have volunteered to host new arrivals, and organisations across Scotland that are providing support.
Viktor* first contacted our helpline before making the journey to Scotland. Our advisers were able to reassure him and provide holistic support. He and his family are now settling in to their new community and are very grateful for the advice they’ve received.
He said: “I would like to tell you many thanks from my family. When we arrived to UK you helped us a lot at a time when we were confused and did not understand what we needed to do.”
Empowering Ukrainian communities
We’re working with local authorities, the public sector, refugee-supporting groups and people arriving from Ukraine to create Community Integration Networks across Scotland. These networks bring a range of partners together to work at a community level to ensure Ukrainians are represented and can access the support and services they need.
Ukrainian Community Integration Networks have been established in Dundee, Glasgow, the Highlands and Perth and Kinross. And talks about starting new networks are underway in communities across Scotland.
We’ve also established a Ukrainian Collective to represent Ukrainians living in Scotland and advocate on their behalf. The group is made up of volunteers from Ukraine who come together to discuss key issues affecting their communities. They then come up with practical solutions which will inform and influence the Scottish Government and other service providers.
Community Development Officer, Andrii Nadych, helps coordinate the Collective. He said: “It’s not just about consulting people about the challenges they are facing but also asking for their input on solutions that could help them and others in their communities.”
Providing information and advice
Many new arrivals spend their first few weeks or months in hotels before moving into more permanent homes. Last summer, the Scottish Government also contracted two cruise ships to provide temporary accommodation for more than 2,500 people. The HMS Ambition is docked in Glasgow and the HMS Victoria in Edinburgh.
We’re working closely with local authorities across Scotland to support people in temporary accommodation. In response to news that the Scottish Government contract with the HMS Ambition will end on 31 March, we’re holding weekly drop-in sessions on the ship. Our expert advisers are on hand to provide information and offer reassurance. We’re also working closely with partners to help connect refugees with suitable hosts.
People attending the sessions are invited to provide anonymous feedback:
“Thank you very much for the meeting. There was a lot of useful information and everything was clearly explained.”
“Ця сесія була дуже корисною, дякую за надану інформацію” (This session was very helpful. Thanks for the information.)
“Все дуже гарно пояснили ,на всі питання отримала відповідь.” (Everything was explained very well. All questions were answered.)
“Cегодня было и так всё понятно, спасибо большое вам всем за поддержку и помощь” (Today everything was clear. Thank you very much for all your support and help.)
Helping people feel at home in Scotland
Our integration team is supporting more than 460 households from Ukraine to settle and feel at home in communities across Scotland.
We hold regular information sessions to ensure that new arrivals understand their rights and know how to access vital services. More than 790 people have attended our sessions.
We’re providing vital information and advice on everything from enrolling children in school and registering for healthcare, to setting up a bank account, applying for benefits and finding work. We also make people aware of housing options and work with local authorities and hosts in communities across Scotland to help Ukrainians find suitable accommodation.
Nastasiya* recently arrived from Ukraine. She told us: “I would like to thank you for your understanding, support and help. Moving to Scotland is a big challenge for each of us, but with your help we manage to integrate quickly.”
Our work is only possible thanks to people like you. Donate now to help us reach more people seeking safety in Scotland with vital services and support.
*Some names have been changed to protect identitiesUkraine